LONG ISLAND CITY — City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is calling for greater community input on publicly-funded art projects after a plan to build a $515,000 sculpture of a pink sunbather on Jackson Avenue sparked controversy.
The city plans to install the figure on Jackson Avenue near 43rd Avenue as part of the Department of Cultural Affairs' Percent for Art program, which allocates funds from construction projects toward public art.
Neighbors criticized the piece online, with many taking aim at the figure's pink hue. The controversy spurred Van Bramer to draft a bill, which he was expected to introduce Tuesday, to require a least one hearing to allow the public to weigh in on future projects.
"I think that some folks are either unaware of the process, or are quite aware of the process but believe that the community’s input could come earlier, or more meaningfully," Van Bramer said earlier this month at a town hall to discuss art and culture in the city.
Artists for the Percent for Art program are currently selected by a panel of public officials and art professionals, at least one of whom must live in the borough where the art will be installed.
Some 320 pieces have been created under the program since it was created in 1982, according to DCA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, who said most of those projects were well received.
The proposed Jackson Avenue piece will be funded by city money for a streetscape improvement project there.
Artist Ohad Meromi plans to make the piece, titled "The Sunbather," out of bronze and then paint it pink, according a proposal detailed at a Community Board 2 meeting last year.
Plans for the piece emerged online on local blog LICPost in November and sparked a slew of negative comments.
But at the town hall earlier this month, Finkelpearl said others have said they enjoyed the piece.
"We've heard very positive things as well," he said. "The negative voice often sounds very loud."
Elements of the sculpture are still in flux, including its color, and it still needs final approval from the city's Public Design Commission, Finkelpearl said.
A speaker in the audience during the meeting offered a positive review, saying that she while she didn't like the location, she thought the sculpture was "amazingly interesting."
Meromi, who also attended the meeting, said he thinks his piece is "relatable" and good for the site, but respects the public's feedback.
"It's public money, and people have opinions," the artist said. "People have different ideas about art."